Quotes Suitable for Framing: Robert Bolt

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From Richmond to Chelsea, a penny halfpenny . . . from Chelsea to Richmond, a penny halfpenny. From Richmond to Chelsea, it’s a quiet float downstream, from Chelsea to Richmond, it’s a hard pull upstream. And it’s a penny halfpenny either way. Whoever makes the regulations doesn’t row a boat.

Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

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39 Comments

  1. Ah, our old Marxist bogey, the labour theory of value. There’s really only one way to answer:

    ‘The passengers don’t pay you three halfpence for the work you do. They pay you three halfpence for the work you save them. Compared to going on foot, you save them the same number of steps upstream or down.’

  2. It seems to me that in this particular case, the State knows what it’s doing better than the boatman does. Ask yourself this: Are the customers willing to pay more for a trip upstream than for one down? Is it of more value to them? Now ask: Is there any possible way for the boatman to provide the soft, easy downstream service without the hard work of going back upstream again? Or are the two halves of the trip part of an indivisible whole?

    This is extremely basic economics, and if you think the boatman has a case, you flunked it. Baloney yourself.

  3. Chew the baloney Tom. I often have clients who pay for my services to go to distant counties although I point out to them that they could find cheaper attorneys locally who wouldn’t have to charge them travel time. Understanding that, they still often pick me. Lots of factors go into determining the value of services including reliability, skill and effort. In regard to the boatman example, Saint Thomas was willing to pay him a bonus if he got him back by breakfast.
    “Boat!

    Sir?

    Chelsea, sir?

    Chelsea.

    I expect you’ll make it worth my while, sir.

    -You’ve got a licence?

    -Bless you, yes sir, I’ve got a licence.

    -Well then, the fares are fixed.

    -They are, sir.

    From Richmond to Chelsea, a penny halfpenny . . . from Chelsea to Richmond, a penny halfpenny. From Richmond to Chelsea, it’s a quiet float downstream, from Chelsea to Richmond, it’s a hard pull upstream. And it’s a penny halfpenny either way. Whoever makes the regulations doesn’t row a boat.

    No. Threepence if you get me home
    for breakfast.

    Thank you, sir.”

    That is what happens when the State gets out of the way and allows parties to negotiate a price. With the State making the price the same no matter the work involved, you would have lots of boatmen for the easy ride downstream and a paucity of boatmen to handle the upstream rowing. That is basic economics when the State attempts to interfere with a market and impose a price.

  4. “I often have clients who pay for my services to go to distant counties although I point out to them that they could find cheaper attorneys locally who wouldn’t have to charge them travel time. Understanding that, they still often pick me.”

    That’s nice. It’s also completely irrelevant, since your clients are not paying you to travel; they are paying you to perform professional services for them once you arrive, and value those services sufficiently to pay a premium over what a local attorney would cost.

    “With the State making the price the same no matter the work involved, you would have lots of boatmen for the easy ride downstream and a paucity of boatmen to handle the upstream rowing.”

    Fallacious, because THE BOATS have to make the round trip and the boatmen are required whether the boat is empty or full. The effort of making the upstream trip is necessary if there are to be any downstream trips at all.

    Meanwhile, you did not ask yourself why the upstream trip should be worth more to the passengers than the downstream trip. There’s no reason why it should. The boatmen are competing with land travel, which (over relatively level terrain like that in the vicinity of London) is not appreciably harder to do in one direction than the other.

    Suppose the boatmen charged twopence for the upstream trip and a penny downstream. They would get a lot fewer passengers for the upstream trip and end up earning less money for it. On the other hand, if they are operating anywhere near capacity to begin with, they would get so many passengers for the downstream trip at the cheaper rate that they would have to turn people away – and again would end up getting less money.

    In effect, if the State got out of the way, the overall price of the service might go up or down, but there would still be no economic reason for the upstream trip to be priced any higher than downstream. And an intelligent boatman would adjust his prices to earn the greatest revenue per round trip, knowing that the boat has to go both ways, full or empty. That adjustment would lead to equal prices both ways, since there is equal traffic in both directions (necessarily true over time: Chelsea is not permanently exporting people to Richmond, nor vice versa), equal demand, and the boat has to make an equal number of trips. The total cost of running the boat (including the hard work of rowing, warping, or poling against the current) is charged, by a rational operator, against the total revenue going both ways. However, the fictitious character in A Man For All Seasons is not a rational operator; he is not an operator at all; and you ought not to expect useful insight into the trade from him.

  5. “That’s nice. It’s also completely irrelevant, since your clients are not paying you to travel; they are paying you to perform professional services for them once you arrive, and value those services sufficiently to pay a premium over what a local attorney would cost.”

    Just as in the case of boatmen. How strongly someone is pulling on the oars makes a difference in time on the trip and even in the Sixteenth Century time was money. Not to mention that if you are paying a premium price that boatman in the future will be more willing to pick you up first if there are several customers waiting on the dock.

    “Fallacious, because THE BOATS have to make the round trip and the boatmen are required whether the boat is empty or full. The effort of making the upstream trip is necessary if there are to be any downstream trips at all.”

    Nope, the boatman could proceed with downstream trips, make a nice sum with much less effort, and then at the end of the day row the boat back with no passengers. Less effort due to less weight. This isn’t rocket science and these are the type of unintended consequences that happen when the State sets an artificial price.

    “Meanwhile, you did not ask yourself why the upstream trip should be worth more to the passengers than the downstream trip. There’s no reason why it should. The boatmen are competing with land travel, which (over relatively level terrain like that in the vicinity of London) is not appreciably harder to do in one direction than the other.”

    Because boat travel is more convenient for the passengers or else they would pay for land transport. QED. They would pay more because, absent the State, someone providing a service is going to charge more for something which requires more effort. The State setting up an artificial price would lessen the convenience of boat travel because you would have fewer boatmen doing it.

    “Suppose the boatmen charged twopence for the upstream trip and a penny downstream. They would get a lot fewer passengers for the upstream trip and end up earning less money for it. On the other hand, if they are operating anywhere near capacity to begin with, they would get so many passengers for the downstream trip at the cheaper rate that they would have to turn people away – and again would end up getting less money.”

    Let the market determine the price. That is the whole point of the quote that the State sets prices out of ignorance. That is why Socialism only works in the Utopia of Saint Thomas.

    “In effect, if the State got out of the way, the overall price of the service might go up or down, but there would still be no economic reason for the upstream trip to be priced any higher than downstream. And an intelligent boatman would adjust his prices to earn the greatest revenue per round trip, knowing that the boat has to go both ways, full or empty. That adjustment would lead to equal prices both ways, since there is equal traffic in both directions (necessarily true over time: Chelsea is not permanently exporting people to Richmond, nor vice versa), equal demand, and the boat has to make an equal number of trips. The total cost of running the boat (including the hard work of rowing, warping, or poling against the current) is charged, by a rational operator, against the total revenue going both ways. However, the fictitious character in A Man For All Seasons is not a rational operator; he is not an operator at all; and you ought not to expect useful insight into the trade from him.”

    No, markets do not work that way. The best boatmen who provide reliable swift service will earn more than boatmen who are not reliable or provide slow lackluster service. The State in its pricing scheme ignores the factors that make markets work and ensures worse service to customers due to its intervention.

  6. Just as in the case of boatmen.

    No, NOT as in the case of boatmen. Your clients are not paying you for transportation; which is a good thing, because it is becoming increasingly obvious that you don’t know how the transportation business works and have never thought much about it.

    Not to mention that if you are paying a premium price that boatmen in the future will be more willing to pick you up first if there are several customers waiting on the dock.

    The mere fact that Thomas More was able to offer the boatman a premium price shows, in fact, that the price was not set by the State, but was a matter of local custom which could lawfully be set aside by mutual agreement. That makes a nonsense of your whole argument, by the way.

    Nope, the boatman could proceed with downstream trips, make a nice sum with much less effort, and then at the end of the day row the boat back with no passengers. Less effort due to less weight. This isn’t rocket science and these are the type of unintended consequences that happen when the state sets an artificial price.

    Then he would be getting absolutely nothing for the upstream trip, and would waste more than half his time (the upstream trip takes longer) and much more than half his effort. If he is going to make the upstream trip at all (and he has to, exactly as many times as he goes downstream), he might as well be making money at it.

    Look, real people who are engaged in real transportation will move heaven and earth to avoid ‘deadheads’. They want every mile they travel to be producing revenue, even if some parts of the trip are being sold to the public below cost. Why do you think airlines have seat sales? The same principle applies here.

    By the way, most of the work involved in moving a boat upstream is not done moving the weight of the passengers, or even the weight of the boat; it is done to overcome water resistance owing to the current. Your boatman would not save much effort by moving the boat empty — but he would lose at least half the total revenue of his business. (I say at least half, because if he did not offer upstream passenger service, that would discourage people from using his downstream service. Some people don’t want to travel by a particular means unless they are assured of being able to make the round trip.)

    Because boat travel is more convenient for the passengers or else they would pay for land transport.

    Boat travel is more convenient for the passengers, but that convenience is only worth a certain price to them. Suppose the upstream trip cost twopence and downstream a penny: fewer people would be willing to pay twopence for the trip than a penny. The convenience to the passengers has absolutely nothing to do with the direction of the trip. They are not the ones who have to worry about the current. The opportunity cost of walking instead of taking the boat is the same to them no matter which direction they go; if anything, the opportunity cost is lower to go upstream because the boat travels slower in that direction, and time, as you say, is money.

    They would pay more because, absent the State, someone providing a service is going to charge more for something which requires more effort.

    No, they would not pay more. They are going to offer to pay what the convenience is worth to them, not what it is worth to the boatman. If their offer isn’t worth the boatman’s trouble, then he will decline to take them and there will be no transaction.

    Let the market determine the price. That is the whole point of the quote that the State sets prices out of ignorance. That is why Socialism only works in the Utopia of Saint Thomas.

    If the market determined the price, it would still be the same price going upstream and down, because both trips are equally necessary to the business (the supply curves are the same) and both trips are equally valuable to the passengers (the demand curves are the same). I already said that, but you seem determined to argue.

    No, markets do not work that way. The best boatmen who provide reliable swift service will earn more than boatmen who are not reliable or provide slow lackluster service.

    None of that has anything to do with whether an upstream trip is worth more than a downstream one.

    Look, I am not arguing in favour of the State setting any price for anything. I am saying that you have chosen a bad example. You desperately want it to be a good example and the State to be the villain – but if you look at any real water transport service operated by a private business, you will find that the factors I have mentioned all contribute to the setting of prices, and they all do conduce to the same result: The fare is determined by the lowest marginal utility to the last marginal passenger – i.e., it is set at the level that will maximize revenues by filling the boat, no matter whether the boat is going upstream, downstream, or paddling around on a glassy smooth lake with no current at all. The price upstream and downstream are not the same because the State arbitrarily said so; they are the same because the supply and demand curves are the same, and intersect at the same point.

  7. “No, NOT as in the case of boatmen. Your clients are not paying you for transportation; which is a good thing, because it is becoming increasingly obvious that you don’t know how the transportation business works and have never thought much about it.”

    I assume you wrote that rubbish because you have no reply to the fact that paying a boatman more for increased effort would lead to faster transit which is of value to the paying customer, as it was when Saint Thomas offered the bonus.

    “The mere fact that Thomas More was able to offer the boatman a premium price shows, in fact, that the price was not set by the State”

    Completely false. Saint Thomas said that the price was fixed. He was a lawyer and would not have used that term if this was a voluntary price “suggestion” by the State. In the 1988 televised version of the play Cromwell intervenes at this point and says that the fees are fixed.

    “Then he would be getting absolutely nothing for the upstream trip, and would waste more than half his time (the upstream trip takes longer) and much more than half his effort.”

    Not at all. He has spent an easy day making down stream fees with minimal effort on his part. He then proceeds back to his own starting point at his own pace, rather than spending the entire day fighting the current upstream for impatient customers.

    “Boat travel is more convenient for the passengers, but that convenience is only worth a certain price to them.”

    Agreed. Let the market set it. Then we would find that all sorts of factors go into setting the price and that boatmen would earn different amounts based upon the quality of the service provided.

    “You desperately want it to be a good example and the State to be the villain”

    Which when the State sets a price is almost always the case because the State always sets the price out of ignorance, because there are too many factors for the State to determine the value of a service or a commodity.

  8. I assume you wrote that rubbish

    If you keep insulting me, I may go away, but it won’t cause you to be right.

    because you have no reply to the fact that paying a boatman more for increased effort would lead to faster transit which is of value to the paying customer, as it was when Saint Thomas offered the bonus.

    If we’re going to play that game, I could say: ‘I assume YOU wrote YOUR rubbish because you have no reply to the fact that an upstream trip is worth no more to the customer than a downstream trip.’

    Completely false. Saint Thomas said that the price was fixed. He was a lawyer and would not have used that term if this was a voluntary price “suggestion” by the State.

    In that case, how did he get away with offering a higher price? Either he did (in which case the price was not actually fixed) or he didn’t.

    Not at all. He has spent an easy day making down stream fees with minimal effort on his part. He then proceeds back to his own starting point at his own pace, rather than spending the entire day fighting the current upstream for impatient customers.

    He proceeds with an empty boat, which costs time and money. If he does it ‘at his own pace’ (viz.: more slowly), then he is putting in longer hours for no revenue at all. People in the transport industry do not voluntarily do that.

    Agreed. Let the market set it. Then we would find that all sorts of factors go into setting the price and that boatmen would earn different amounts based upon the quality of the service provided.

    Right. But an upstream trip does not ipso facto mean a higher quality of service than a downstream trip. It is not worth more to the passenger.

    Which when the State sets a price is almost always the case because the State always sets the price out of ignorance, because there are too many factors for the State to determine the value of a service or a commodity.

    Instead, you want to set the price higher for upstream trips and lower for downstream, because YOU don’t know the factors involved and are setting the price out of ignorance. In actual practice, the supply of upstream trips is necessarily equal to the supply of downstream trips, and the demand from upstream passengers is so nearly equal to the demand from downstream passengers that the difference is not worth bothering about.

    The fact that one part of the boatman’s job is harder than another is neither here nor there. If you think he deserves to be paid more for the part of the trip on which he works harder, you are subscribing to the labour theory of value, which is a fallacy: and this is exactly where we began. Your example has little to say about the setting of prices in the transportation business, and unfortunately, a great deal to say about false ideas of ‘deserved’ reward for effort.

  9. “‘I assume YOU wrote YOUR rubbish because you have no reply to the fact that an upstream trip is worth no more to the customer than a downstream trip.’”

    What it is worth to the customer is what he is willing to pay for it which a set price by the State gives us no insight into. If he isn’t willing to pay more for an upstream trip so be it. The boatman goes on to the next customer and either eventually gets his price, lowers his price or goes into a more remunerative trade. That is how markets, as opposed to state imposed prices, work.

    “In that case, how did he get away with offering a higher price?”

    Because only the boatman and Saint Thomas were present. The boatman was hardly going to inform on Saint Thomas for paying a higher price for better service. Saint Thomas recognized it was a foolish law and violating it was merely malum probibitum rather than malum in se.

    “He proceeds with an empty boat, which costs time and money.”

    He could take a passenger back with him if so wished. Under the fixed price schedule doing a longer trip might have been more remunerative than doing a number of shorter trips. In any case he would be fighting the current only once during the day rather than many times during the day, even if for shorter time periods. Such stratagems would be unnecessary if the boatman were able to ask what he believed his services were worth rather than what the State decrees they are worth.

    “But an upstream trip does not ipso facto mean a higher quality of service than a downstream trip. It is not worth more to the passenger.”

    Once again it is worth what the market would bear, something that the price being set by the State cannot tell us. I agree that it is unlikely that the boatman would probably advise his customer that going upstream is a higher price, but he would surely factor that into his overall rates if he could do so, which he can’t because the price is fixed by the State.

    “Instead, you want to set the price higher for upstream trips and lower for downstream, because YOU don’t know the factors involved and are setting the price out of ignorance.”

    I don’t want to set a price at all. I want the boatman and his customer to do so in a free market.

  10. What it is worth to the customer is what he is willing to pay for it which a set price by the State gives us no insight into. If he isn’t willing to pay more for an upstream trip so be it.

    In which case the boatman’s complaint has no merit. He was complaining not because he wasn’t free to set his prices, but because he was paid the same for the hard part of the job and for the easy part of the job. (If there is a bit where he complains specifically about the state, you didn’t quote it. I’m only going by the line you cited in your post.)

    In any case he would be fighting the current only once during the day rather than many times during the day, even if for shorter time periods.

    It doesn’t matter. In the end, his mileage upstream, by definition, must exactly equal his mileage downstream. And he would be foolish to refuse remuneration (by not taking passengers) for the hardest part of his job, and only take money for the easy part.

    Even in fiction, there was only ever one boatman who took all his passengers in one direction and always returned with an empty vessel. That was the one on the river Styx.

    I don’t want to set a price at all. I want the boatman and his customer to do so in a free market.

    But you endorse the complaint of the boatman that the upstream price should be higher because he has to work harder. That complaint is founded upon the fallacy of the labour theory of value. Not only that, you want to make an example out of his complaint, even though it is a fictitious complaint offered by a fictitious boatman in a work of historical fiction. Is there any record of Thomas More’s taking an actual boat up the Thames and having the boatman make the complaint you quoted?

    I hope I may be forgiven if I quote from an essay I wrote a few years back:

    When the example itself is fictitious, it does not prove that the ‘accidents’ are true even in one case. I could say that all zeffles are mammals, and all zeffles eat gwermwims. That does not prove that all mammals eat gwermwims, or even that any mammals eat gwermwims. It does not prove anything at all, because I just made it up. . . . The error of converse accident is combined with the fallacy of the straw man.

    The boatman’s reasoning as given is fallacious, and his entire case is fictitious. As in the silly example I gave in my essay, one fallacy is piled upon another. I would suggest that the adjective ‘silly’ is equally applicable to your process as to mine; except that I was being silly deliberately, and you seem determined to defend your silliness seriously.

  11. “In which case the boatman’s complaint has no merit.”
    Let the free market determine whether his complaint has merit. Prices are not usually fixed to benefit those providing services, especially in this case where those setting the prices would not be rowing boats but they would likely be using the services of boatmen.
    “And he would be foolish to refuse remuneration (by not taking passengers) for the hardest part of his job, and only take money for the easy part.”
    His asset is his body that rows the oars. He will of course seek to lessen the wear and tear on it if he is not getting a price that he believes will compensate him for the wear and tear, government decrees notwithstanding.

    “But you endorse the complaint of the boatman that the upstream price should be higher because he has to work harder.”

    Nope, I endorse his complaint that the people making the rules do not know his business as well as he does. That is the eternal problem of price controls by governments.

  12. Nope, I endorse his complaint that the people making the rules do not know his business as well as he does. That is the eternal problem of price controls by governments.

    You endorsed his complaint that the upstream price should be higher when I pointed out that this was the fallacy of the labour theory of value, and you said that was baloney. You’ve been arguing vociferously for that point of view ever since. Don’t tell me you didn’t endorse his complaint, when that very endorsement is the entire substance of what we have been arguing about and the only point on which we differ.

  13. What I actually said to your intial comment was this:

    “Baloney Tom. The boatman doesn’t get to negotiate with his customers. The State sets the price and the State doesn’t know what it is doing. That is the whole point of the quote.”

  14. Prices are not usually fixed to benefit those providing services,

    By the way, at the time referred to, this was emphatically the reverse of the case. In 16th-century England, most prices were fixed by guilds in their own interest and against the interest of consumers. Guild members were forbidden to undersell the official guild price, and tradesmen who were not guild members were forbidden to practise their trades at all.

    In fact, you are guilty of a large and unwarranted assumption when you assume that it was the state that fixed the price. (Bolt appears guilty of the same assumption, by the way that he wrote the dialogue.) Historically, since the sixteenth century, the price of boat travel on the Thames has been set by the Watermen and Lightermen’s Company, which was and still is an official trade guild. I don’t know whether the guild’s monopoly extends as far back as the time of Henry VIII. But if it did, ‘whoever makes the regulations’ was a committee of master watermen chosen by the guild. That isn’t a free market any more than state regulation is, but it cannot be seriously argued that it regulated against the benefit of its members.

  15. What I actually said to your intial comment was this:
    “Baloney Tom. The boatman doesn’t get to negotiate with his customers. The State sets the price and the State doesn’t know what it is doing. That is the whole point of the quote.”

    Thanks, I read that the first time. But it was also, quite plainly, part of the point of the quote that the boatman felt he deserved higher pay for going upstream than downstream, and that was the part I objected to. You then went into an elaborate defence of his position, which you are still trying to conduct.

  16. “In fact, you are guilty of a large and unwarranted assumption when you assume that it was the state that fixed the price. (Bolt appears guilty of the same assumption, by the way that he wrote the dialogue.)”

    The quotation cited was not cited for its historical accuracy but for the purpose of showing the essential lunacy of price controls. As for guild pricing they could only get away with their conspiracy against the public due to government coercion, the guilds usually having control of town governments at least in England. It was of course not only a conspiracy against the public, but also against those who wished to compete successfully against guild members if the laws of the free market were in force. I have no more sympathy for businesses or unions attempting to rig prices than I do for governments doing so.

  17. The boatman and his customer should be free to negotiate prices each way and any way.
    The fact that some trips are more laborious, certainly would suggest the potential of a higher price because it stands to reason that the supply of men willing to undertake the labor would be smaller, but that also assumes that the demand would be constant, but it is impossible to know that. The price reflects both the supply and the demand, and the fact that one downstream is more difficult than upstream is not dispositive of where that intersection rests. Yet, if one assumes that is the only variable to change, then logic would suggest a higher equalibrium price for upstream.

  18. Not judging from your comments Tom.

    That’s because you have never once addressed or even acknowledged my point, which is that the substance of the boatman’s complaint is founded upon the labour theory of value.

    The fact that some trips are more laborious, certainly would suggest the potential of a higher price because it stands to reason that the supply of men willing to undertake the labor would be smaller.

    We are talking about traffic up and down a river with no tributaries. If the boat goes downstream, it must also go upstream, unless you believe that the boatmen are foolish enough to build new boats for every trip and then throw them away. Going upstream is a necessary part of the labour, and the number of men available for that labour is limited by the number willing to undertake ALL of it – the hardest part as well as the easiest. There is no cherry-picking; there is no such thing as a downstream waterman on the Thames.

    You really are clutching at straws.

  19. The quotation cited was not cited for its historical accuracy but for the purpose of showing the essential lunacy of price controls.

    The trouble is, every bit of historical data available shows that the quotation (which was made up by a twentieth-century playwright) would not actually have been uttered in the historical context given. No real boatman would have been such a fool. It is therefore useful as an example of nothing. If you want to show the lunacy of price controls, you might want to use some real price controls as examples.

  20. Begging your pardon, Mr. Petrik; I didn’t mean to accuse you of clutching at straws. When I typed that, I thought I was still responding to Mr. McClarey; and unfortunately I caught my error a shade too late, and there is no edit feature in this combox.

  21. “That’s because you have never once addressed or even acknowledged my point, which is that the substance of the boatman’s complaint is founded upon the labour theory of value.”

    No, it is founded upon the fact that he knows his business and the State doesn’t. His complaint is that the rate for upstream is not adequate compensation for the work involved. He may be right or wrong on that, but without a free market there is no way of telling. Saint Thomas being willing to give a bonus for fast transport is an indication that some customers might well be willing to pay more than the price set by the fiat of the State if good service is rendered.

  22. No, it is founded upon the fact that he knows his business and the State doesn’t.

    If he knew his business, he would know that the hard part of the work and the easy part of the work are both equally necessary, and would not be such a fool as to think that one can be undertaken without the other, or that one should be remunerated on a different scale from the other. He would also know that fares are limited by what the traffic will bear, and the traffic doesn’t care whether he is working hard or lightly on a given leg of the trip.

    His complaint is that the rate for upstream is not adequate compensation for the work involved.

    Precisely. He believes that the value of the work is determined by the difficulty of the labour required: the labour theory of value. That is fallacious, and that is my entire point.

  23. “It is therefore useful as an example of nothing. ”

    My guess is that hordes of people in price controlled professions across the centuries would beg to differ. The State has no business setting prices when it is impossible, absent a free market, to determine what the price should be.

  24. “Precisely. He believes that the value of the work is determined by the difficulty of the labour required: the labour theory of value. ”

    Nope, he views the fee that he can charge for upstream work as being inadequate for the work involved. A free market would allow him to see if he was correct. His interaction with Saint Thomas indicates that the boatman probably had a point in his contention that the fee for upstream work was set too low by the State.

  25. I’m not a boatman, but I do represent transportation companies and stay on Holiday Inns regularly.
    Tom, your hypothetical is too simplistic. Pricing each way depends on a lot of things including the boatman’s best understanding of whether he will have a paying customer returning. Moreover, have you ever hired a rickshaw bike? They will often charge more for an uphill ride than downhill. Even if a downhill ride requires a return uphill, it is preferable for that uphill return to be sans passenger unless they make the effort worthwhile.

  26. Saint Thomas being willing to give a bonus for fast transport is an indication that some customers might well be willing to pay more than the price set by the fiat of the State if good service is rendered.

    If such a thing did actually happen in the historical situation, no law was being violated. Guild prices were minimums. It was forbidden to undersell the official guild price, but not to exceed it. And once again you are intruding the spectre of State fiat into a place where it does not belong. Company of Watermen and Lightermen, Mr. McClarey.

  27. “And once again you are intruding the spectre of State fiat into a place where it does not belong. Company of Watermen and Lightermen, Mr. McClarey.”

    No, Tom, as I already stated the quote is not cited for its historical validity, but as Bolt used it, which clearly had the State setting the fee. Your historical aside is completely irrelevant.

  28. Nope, he views the fee that he can charge for upstream work as being inadequate for the work involved.

    He believes that the fee ought to reflect the work involved. That is the labour theory of value. It doesn’t. That is reality.

    A free market would allow him to see if he was correct.

    True; and then he would find out that he wasn’t.

    His interaction with Saint Thomas indicates that the boatman probably had a point in his contention that the fee for upstream work was set too low by the State.

    Two points:

    1. Thomas More did not pay him extra because the trip was upstream, but because he was in a hurry and wanted special service.

    2. THE FEE WAS NOT SET BY THE STATE. Have you even been bothering to read my comments?

  29. No, Tom, as I already stated the quote is not cited for its historical validity, but as Bolt used it, which clearly had the State setting the fee. Your historical aside is completely irrelevant.

    Then use a real example or don’t use one at all. Examples from fiction are LIES.

  30. Even if a downhill ride requires a return uphill, it is preferable for that uphill return to be sans passenger unless they make the effort worthwhile.

    That isn’t true of boats on the Thames, however. Your objection is therefore irrelevant.

  31. Tom,
    Don is not suggesting that the difficulty of the work sets the price, but he is correct that the difficulty of the work is one factor which influences the supply of labor willing to do the work and that influences the price. All other variables being equal, the harder the work the higher the price. Of course, all other variable are never equal, which is why prices must be established by markets and not regulators. Don is not suggesting that the boatman deserves a higher price for more difficult trips; he is suggesting that the boatman deserves to take the difficulty into account in determining what he is willing to do and when.

  32. Don is not suggesting that the boatman deserves a higher price for more difficult trips; he is suggesting that the boatman deserves to take the difficulty into account in determining what he is willing to do and when.

    However, the boatman will always have to make those upstream trips; and in point of fact, the difficulty of an upstream trip is but little affected by the number of passengers in the boat.

    I feel as if I have wandered into a Kafka novel or a Bolshevik show trial. I keep mentioning facts, and people keep rebutting me by saying that facts aren’t relevant. Do please try to recall what the philosophers have said about the perils of inferring an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. Mr. McClarey, here, is trying to infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘ISN’T’.

  33. Fair enough, Tom. Based on the facts you assume (and I’ve no basis to disagree with them) you have convinced my that the difficulty of the trip is not relevant to price — at least absent odd facts which I’ll avoid. That said, while the degree of labor as such may not be relevant surely the demand in those markets could differ which would allow for disparate pricing. In other words, you have convinced me that the supply should stay more or less constant assuming return trips are normally necessary, but don’t you also agree that the demand for the trips could be much different since not customers will require round trips? Seasonality and immigration trends all could play a part. The bottom line is you are right that given the round trip assumption (and your assumption of no or minimal incrimental effort for additional passengers), hard pull or quiet float should not affect pricing. But any error by Don had nothing to do with Marxism or the labor theory of value, but only a failure to take into account the rather odd facts of the case. In general, the degree of effort expended by labor is relevant to pricing, even if only indirectly as affecting the supply of labor. Don’s principle point is correct that prices established either by the state or by guilds are suboptimal.

  34. “Examples from fiction are LIES.”

    Not at all Tom. Assuming the facts that Bolt did, his example was completely germane to the point that I am making which is that State imposed prices are no substitute for markets.

  35. “Two points:

    1. Thomas More did not pay him extra because the trip was upstream, but because he was in a hurry and wanted special service.

    2. THE FEE WAS NOT SET BY THE STATE. Have you even been bothering to read my comments?”

    Many patrons would be in the same boat as Saint Thomas, busy officials who would be willing to pay a premium for good service absent State imposed price controls. The boatman not being able to charge what he believes his services are worth is illustrated by his conversation with Saint Thomas.

    In the play the price was most certainly set by the State.

  36. This discussion is a perfect example in microcosm of why certain disputes are ultimately resolved by force.Even if I were to take the time to see if either of you had resorted to enthymemes, I doubt there would be any concession.I have gotten to an age where sadly I don’t have the energy.I do remember from La Salle college that only some laws were binding in conscience and I would be quick to charge more to row upstream

  37. The leftist political strategy for over 100 years has been: 1. Regulate and tax something 2. Blame the free market for inevitable disruptions caused by the regulation and tax 3. Use the regulation/tax-induced disruptions to justify more regulation 4. Repeat.

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